Hazelnut Espresso Layer Cake by Chelsea Zwieg

I am a very boring coffee drinker. If I don't have coffee within 20 minutes of waking up, God help us all but as far as the actual coffee goes I just want it super strong and black. Cream just cools it down, which I don't like. And sugar in coffee is wrong to me on so many levels. Unless we're talking Starbucks drinks, in which case get at me, sugar filled lattes. But as far as my daily 4am coffee goes, I keep it big time boring. 

But. There's always a but. I was buying coffee last week and something came over me and next thing I knew, I was rolling through the checkout with hazelnut flavored coffee. Who even am I?? I'm pretty sure it was a sale coupled with some vague memory of liking the hazelnut coffee at a bagel shop I used to live across from in college. Whatever the reason, I am here to tell you that I am completely obsessed. So obsessed that I made a cake about it. 

Hazelnut, coffee and chocolate are three of the very best flavors in my opinion so how could they not marry together into the most perfect cake? I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, subbing in hazelnut coffee for the hot water. When it is time to assemble the cake, each layer gets brushed with a little extra coffee which soaks into the cake and keeps it moist. The buttercream is a combination of nutella and coffee and I will never ever get tired of that. To finish it off I made a chocolate espresso glaze for some chocolate drip action and then added some chopped hazelnuts. It's definitely not the fastest cake you can make, but it is right up there among the most delicious. And for me, that's worth it every time. 

Hazelnut Espresso Layer Cake

Makes a 3 layer 6" cake

| Ingredients

For the cake: 

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla 
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee (I used hazelnut coffee, but any kind will do) 

For the hazelnut coffee frosting: 

  • 1/2 cup egg whites (3-4 large eggs)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup nutella
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. espresso or very strong coffee, cooled to room temperature
  • chopped hazelnuts, for garnish

For the chocolate glaze: 

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee
  • 2 oz. dark chocolate


Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour 3 6" cake pans. 

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sifting is super important when making chocolate cake to get rid of any cocoa powder or flour lumps. Let the mixer run on low to combine the ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle well and add the hot coffee. Mix on low, scraping as needed, until combined and smooth. 

Divide the batter evenly among the three cake pans. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

For the frosting, whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking often, until the mixture reaches 155 degrees on a candy thermometer. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high for 8-10 minutes until the egg whites are medium-stiff peaks and have cooled to room temperature. Swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, letting it incorporate after each addition. The butter needs to be room temperature to work in properly. Once the butter has been added add the vanilla and salt. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy and smooth, at least 3 minutes. 

Scrape the bowl well and add the nutella. Beat to combine. With the mixer running on low, slowly stream in 2 tbsp. coffee, letting the liquid incorporate before adding more. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is smooth. 

To assemble the cake, trim the layers so that they are level. Brush the layers with the remaining 1/4 cup coffee/espresso, letting the liquid soak into the cake before assembling. Fill and stack the layers with the hazelnut buttercream. Frost the outside of the cake, smoothing the top and edges. Place the cake in the freezer to firm up before applying the chocolate drips. 

To make the chocolate glaze, heat the cream and corn syrup in the microwave until simmering. Add the instant coffee and stir to dissolve. Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. If the chocolate doesn't melt fully, microwave the mixture in 20 second intervals, stirring between each, until you have a smooth glaze. Let the glaze cool at room temperature for 10 minutes before using. 

Once the glaze is ready, remove the cake from the freezer. Spread a thin layer of glaze across the top of the cake and use a spoon to create drips down the sides. A great tutorial on this can be found here. Let the glaze set, then decorate the rest of the cake as desired. 

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry by Chelsea Zwieg

Well, well, well, I think I'm out of my cooking rut. Maybe it's because that whole spring weather in the middle of February thing is over so I'm no longer confused if I should be making my standard February comfort food or something that matches the 70 degree weather. Or maybe it's because I've finally snapped out of vacation mode and back into actual life mode where I have to cook things if I want to eat them. Or maybe it's all because I made curry for the first time ever and have been weeping happy tears of joy about how much I love it ever since. I think it's that one. 

I really can't believe I have never made anything like this before. I went through a major curry chicken/naan phase in college but (please don't take away my food blogging license) I always got it out of the frozen food section. But thanks to a genius suggestion (hi, Julia!), I got to thinking about how easy it is to make at home. Which led me down a serious internet rabbit hole of curry recipes and straight into this sweet potato and spinach bowl of happiness. It's everything that I love. Lots of spice, tons of veggies and a bunch of rice/quinoa/bread/whatever to soak up any sauce. UGH, yes. Get at me. 

If vegetarian curry isn't your thing, this would be so great with chicken added to it as well. I also really wanted to add mushrooms but wasn't so sure if that would fly by the curry rules. But really, forget the rules. Mushrooms are perfect in everything, it's just a fact. Since this is much more stew than soup I like to have rice to catch any leftover sauce. Rice normally bores me to death, but I have found that stirring lime juice and cilantro into rice makes it 100x better, way less dry and the perfect companion to all your future spicy, sweet potato filled curries (currys? google won't give me a straight answer. help.) I also didn't have time to make naan and have been regretting it ever since. So learn from my mistakes, make some naan and make this curry. Again. and again. and again. 

Have a great weekend! 

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry 

Serves 4

| Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. red curry paste
  • 1-2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. turmeric 
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14oz.) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (2 1/2 cups total)
  • 5 oz. spinach
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • cashews, rice, lime wedges, for serving

| Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric and red pepper flakes. I only used 1 tbsp. curry powder but depending on your curry powder/how much curry flavor you like you might want to add 2. Give everything a good stir to coat the vegetables and continue to cook for about a minute. 
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and coconut milk and stir well, scraping the bottom to get any bits of spice that may have stuck. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to boil. 
  • Add the carrots and sweet potato and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. 
  • Add the spinach and lime juice and stir until the spinach is wilted and combined. 
  • Serve with rice and top with cashews, lime wedges and anything else you like. I like to stir lime juice and cilantro into my rice since I think white rice is a little blah on its own.